However, there is a long way to go before these vehicles will be ready for general use. They are still in the testing phase, and even once engineers have ensured the cars are safe and reliable, they will still have to interact with old-fashioned cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Not to mention pedestrians and bicyclists. Even though most cyclists and pedestrians are careful and responsible, nobody has experience interacting with self-driving cars at this point. And we don’t know for sure yet that automated cars will know how to avoid hitting pedestrians.
This could be why Google is exploring ways to reduce pedestrian injuries, rather than insisting that its technology will eliminated such crashes. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the company has been approved for a patent for a special coating that it will put into the front of its cars.
The idea is that this adhesive coating would emerge after a collision with a person. The adhesive would cause the pedestrian to stick to the hood of the car, instead of bouncing off and falling hard onto the street or another vehicle.
This is just one of several creative solutions automakers have tried to reduce injuries among pedestrian crash victims. One Volvo model includes a “pedestrian air bag” on the outside of the windshield. And some Jaguar models sold outside the U.S. come equipped with small explosive charges that raise the hood several inches when it hits a person, softening the blow.
Still, these technologies are unproven, and few vehicles have them. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that pedestrian deaths jumped as much as 10 percent from 2014 to 2015. Clearly, pedestrians in Buffalo and around the country are still vulnerable.